I write this on what became an especially sad day in Australian criminal history. It is 7th December, the twelfth anniversary of Daniel Morcombe’s kidnap and murder. To those of us who were not there, who were not involved, it seems ages have passed since the happening. Imagine if you can how it must be for his parents, Bruce and Denise, and his siblings.
The Sting, the undercover operation that caught Daniel Morcombe’s killer, by Kate Kyriacou is, in the main, the story of how police from three states teamed together in a Mr Big sting. Their purpose? To get a confession from Daniel’s murderer, Brett Peter Cowan. Those familiar with Canadian Mr Big operations (where they evolved, and others subsequently performed by Victoria Police) will have some knowledge of how they work; others will gain a new understanding after reading The Sting. Every last reader will be satisfied with the outcome.
Kyriacou has written a thriller, one that keeps the reader flicking on to the next chapter, and the next, in anticipation of the expected outcome. There is no secret about how it ends, or the effort put in by a professional – and manifestly patient – group of undercover operatives to gain Cowan’s confession. Thriller it may be but one needs to recall, always, it relates to the killing of blameless, pubescent Daniel Morcombe by an opportunistic predator.
Paedophilia, especially when the perpetrator culminates the act with murder, is perhaps the most repugnant crime one can imagine. When the crime is accomplished by – and here I copy a number of epithets used to describe the person – a paedophile, a predator, a psychopath, a parasite – the disgust and loathing of the community is understandably magnified although, in reality, is no different to the same crime committed within a domestic situation.
Many terrible crimes are committed, pretty much every day of every year: Some are accidental, some spontaneous, some planned, some hot blooded, some cold, but all are shocking acts beyond the ken of the ordinary person in the street. That this particular crime, although opportunistic, was cold blooded and committed by someone seeking his own self-gratification, with total disregard for the life and welfare of his defenceless victim, is incomprehensible. Further, that Cowan had been jailed on two prior occasions for brutal acts of paedophilia, in two different jurisdictions, raises the inevitable question, does the law provide sufficient protection? In this instance, no.
Kyriacou researched thoroughly, gaining access to perfectly maintained records provided by the police officers who performed the sting. Every detail of what they discussed with Cowan was chronicled on audio and video devices. Much of it gives an understanding of his mentality. As already stated, patience must have been sorely tried, especially the operatives known as Fitzy and Joe. That they were able to sustain perfect cover under the most trying circumstances – and for months on end! – is a tribute to their utter professionalism. Sad that we can never know them and thank them by name.
The writing is good and the author’s journalistic style keeps it crisp. Be warned, though, due to information on Cowan’s past, his total lack of remorse, and the detailed evidence required for a successful prosecution, there are details in the book that some will find disturbing.
The Morcombe family has been amazing. To quote from Denise’s victim impact statement, “For me, I have a purpose. I will continue my work with the Daniel Morcombe Foundation teaching children to be aware of people like you. By doing this, I hope there will never be another child who goes through what Daniel did from a sexual freak like you.
“…if there is a God and he knows the love that a mother has for her son, you will pay for your actions, you will pay big.”
(Cowan’s) lawyers believe he will live out the rest of his days in protective custody. There is a ‘bash on sight’ order among inmates for anyone able to access Queensland’s most hated prisoner. There are few, if any, who will feel sorry for him.
The Sting, the undercover operation that caught Daniel Morcombe’s killer, by Kate Kyriacou is available from Dymocks